Congratulations, Polka Pete!

September 5, 2023

Congratulations to our very own Polka Pete on his induction into the IPA Polka Music Hall of Fame!

2023 marks Peter J. Danielczuk‘s 53rd anniversary of being involved in polka music. Very rarely is there a DJ/IJ who becomes involved in all aspects of polka music the way he has. He started his polka career in 1970 at WADS 690AM in Ansonia, Conn. as the engineer for the Victor and Sophie Zembruski “Polish Eagle Polka Show” while he was still attending the University of Connecticut. Peter’s other accomplishments include a regularly written article entitled “Polka Celebration” for the quarterly magazine of the Polish Falcons of America Sokol Polski; songs he’s written entitled, “Hooray For The New York Yankees” and “MaryAnn The Polka Angel”; CD liner note-writer for well-known bands; hosting Polka Celebration cruises; promoting polka dances; Master of Ceremonies for festivals and awards programs in polka music, as well as television. Peter was an executive officer of the International Polka Association for 17 years. Today, he serves as a Trustee of the IPA Hall-Of-Fame. In 2007, he was awarded the Joe Jozwiak Award from the International Polka Association, as well as being inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame located in Ohio. Shortly afterward, Jim Kucharski proclaimed him the “Dean of Connecticut’s Polka Broadcasters. ” One of Peter’s proudest achievements was to establish the “Ballroom Polka” by his mentor: the late Ray Henry, as the official state polka in Connecticut. Peter has made Polka a major part of his life and continues to promote and entertain his listeners. Peter walks and talks Polka music!!!

Other Inductees:

Bios written by Polka Pete

Dee-Dee Jasiewicz Ogrodny

Dee-Dee Jasiewicz Ogrodny has had polkas in her heart since she was born, and she has been a fixture at polka events since she was 18 months old – first with her Mom, Josephine Jasiewicz, and with her Dad and brother, Henry and Henny Jasiewicz (both Inductees of the IPA Polka Music Hall of Fame). Dee-Dee’s involvement in polka music is inseparable from family. This includes performing in bands with her father, brother, nephew, her late husband and son. For many female musicians, having a family has replaced performing, but for Dee-Dee the two have gone hand in hand. Even as a devoted stay-at-home mom she continued to perform, and polka music was integrated with family life through playing in the band that included her family members. And for those band members who were not related, she was a big part of making those members feel like family. With Dee-Dee, we have someone who has performed at the highest level in the world of polka music. In addition, beyond her talent she represents the loving, welcoming, familial aspect of the polka world. Her humility, charity, kindness, friendship, care, compassion, selflessness and inclusiveness are a force for good in the field of polka music. Everyone is welcome and brought in and feels the personal connection. In this way, Dee-Dee in an icon of what is best in our “polka family.”

David “Nigel” Alan Kurdziel

David “Nigel” Alan Kurdziel was born on May 2, 1963 in Buffalo, N.Y. He was first exposed to polka music at church picnics and from polka shows. Nigel’s cousin, Gino Kurdziel, played for the renowned G Notes. His older brother Mike was a drummer, and his younger brother Kevin played accordion. Nigel started playing guitar at the age of 11 and joined his first band, The Melody Men, at age 12, playing bass with his brother on drums. In 1981, he graduated from the Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, where he took music theory and performance classes, played coronet and piano, and auditioned to play upright bass with the orchestra. Nigel considers Vinny Horoschok, Vinnie Bozzarelli, Eddie Blazonczyk Sr, Stas Mikruit and Joe Dudek to be among his polka music influences. Nigel filled in with many other bands over the years, including the Krew Brothers, Skylarks, The Knewz, Happy Richie, and Wanda & Stephanie, to name a few. He also performed on over 70 recordings to date (most notably, Live Wire by The Dynatones and the Grammy Award-winning album, Another Polka Celebration by Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones).

Eugene (Gene) Swick

On October 16, 2021, the polka world lost one of the most respected and loved polka promoters in the industry. Eugene (Gene) Swick passed away just two days after his 90th birthday after bouts with multiple health issues. Born in the Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint in Brooklyn, N.Y., he went on to serve his country in the Air Force as a nuclear physicist. Throughout his life, Gene played a major role in sustaining and promoting polka music. He conducted polka dance exhibitions and promoted polka dances in a variety of venues in Southern California and Arizona for many years. By the sheer force of his will and personal finances, Gene managed to keep polka music alive in the southwestern portion of the country almost single-handedly. His influence was also felt nationally as he helped to financially support polka bands and festivals from coast to coast. More than one major festival would have ceased to exist if it wasn’t for his assistance. A humble man who preferred no recognition, he also helped to fund many polka recordings and endeavors behind the scenes. Among polka professionals in the know, Gene’s generosity is legendary. Gene was a longtime member of the IPA Executive Board and served for many years as a trustee representing the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Hawaii.

John Nalevanko

Documenting the history or polkas in Western Pennsylvania would not be complete without discussing John Nalevanko. Affectionately known as Li’l John, he has been a driving force in promoting Polka music in the area. As a musician, John first started playing drums in local bands when he was 12. He played in various bands like the Polka Stars, Avant Gard, Starlighters, and the Jr. Simms Band. However, his true breakout was when he started playing with the Music Tones in the early ’70s. The Music Tones originally recorded one 45, including the Ashes of Love Polka. This country number was then recorded by other polka bands like Eddie Guca, Brass Works, Windy City Brass, and Jimmy Sturr. In 2005, Li’l John formed the ATM Band. ATM stood for All Types of Music, and they exemplified playing rock, country, cha cha’s, and other types besides their polkas. Li’l John has been a polka encyclopedia over the years. You can name any song, and Li’l John would automatically recall the band that recorded it and the album. As you can see, Li’l John Nalevanko was a powerhouse in promoting polkas in Western PA. Without Li’l John’s contributions, Western PA would not be one of the top places in the country to play polkas. Western PA is in a great position because of the leadership that Li’l John has provided over the last 50 years.

Polish Falcons of America

Polish Falcons of America (PFA) is a not-for-profit, member-driven, community life insurer with 20,000 Members nationwide.

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